Lower-lying land is best-suited for human life: typically 190-550 metres above sea level

Most human activity is located here, from Braemar and Ballater to the scattered farmsteads in between and south into Glenshee. Over millennia, alluvial deposits have made these the flattest and most fertile areas within the landscape.

Lambing at Invercauld
Lambing is a crucial period for local farmers


Lambing is a key operation in spring when sheep (of various breeds but traditionally blackface) produce their young; it is a crucial period for local farmers. The air is often thick with the sounds of spring. Birds, including curlew, oystercatchers and lapwings, are starting to breed and are prolific in certain areas where their habitats have been conserved by gamekeepers and farmers. A small amount of barley is sown east of Ballater but most of the valley floor is  grassland, with some light woodland. New growth begins to show in April or May.

Hay made on the valley floor at Crathie for winter cattle feed (C) Angus McNicol / Invercauld Estate.
Hay made on the valley floor at Crathie for winter cattle feed

Summer and Autumn

With summer rain and sun the grass proliferates. By early summer, however, most sheep will have been shepherded up to the moorland zone and won’t return until late Autumn. Silage, or hay in the better summers, is made in the fields to provide a winter food source for livestock. Other wildlife from ducks to dragonflies and frogs to caddis flies make the most of the good weather.

Walkers come to enjoy low lying routes such as the seven bridges walk at Ballater. We also take advantage of the more clement weather to maintain roads, bridges and buildings across the Estate.

Highland Cow in the Snow
Feeding livestock during the winter months can present a challenge


Snow can present a challenge in the valley. The temperatures can be extremely cold and roads can become inaccessible. Feeding livestock is a priority for farmers; the hay and silage made in the summer is supplemented by feed bought in.

Though harsh, the season can bring beautiful snowscapes on clear days when the air is cold, clean and fresh. Wildlife is either hibernating or making use of stored supplies of food tucked away earlier in the year. Deer occasionally stroll out from the woodland zone to graze through the snow in the fields but they prefer to avoid exposure to predators and chilly winds.